If you heard the term “aggravated drug possession” during your arrest or hearing, you might not understand how that is any different from a drug possession charge. One may sound more like a legal term, but they do mean different things.
If you have been charged with possession of a controlled substance, you’re looking at a misdemeanor charge. However, if you have been charged with an aggravated drug crime, you are facing a felony charge. There are a few different factors that change a drug possession to a more severe charge. If you have been arrested for aggravated drug possession and are facing a felony, you should seek the counsel of a criminal lawyer in Montgomery County, PA, as soon as possible.
Possession vs. Aggravated Possession: How the Charges Differ
When you have been charged with possession, the drug was on your person or within your reach. This charge is considered a misdemeanor, and you may have to spend time in jail and/or pay a fine.
The level of drug possession increases based on the amount of drugs you were carrying at the time of the arrest. High amounts of any drug could result in a drug trafficking charge.
A possession charge becomes aggravated when there are specific factors involved. These factors are called “aggravating factors” and make the crime considered a felony, increasing jail time and fines.
The Elements of the Offense
For the prosecutor to obtain a conviction, they must prove that the elements of the drug possession offense have been met. Individuals can only be in possession of a controlled substance when they possess or own it. If you are found with a controlled substance on your person that is available by prescription, for example, but you do not have one, you might face criminal charges.
The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- You intentionally and knowing were in control of an illicit drug
- You knew the drugs and question were illicit, that they were present, and you intended to control or use them
- You were in constructive or actual possession of a controlled substance
Constructive possession does not necessarily mean when you have the drugs on you when stopped by police. However, it does not mean that the drugs were found in a location that you may have had control over, such as underneath your bed or in a common area of your home. Actual possession means you had the drugs in your pocket, purse, or car or were otherwise in direct control of the illegal drugs or controlled substances.
Factors That Make the Charge Aggravated
The presence of any aggravating factors during a drug crime elevates the charges to aggravated drug possession. The aggravating factors include:
- Possession of more drugs than one person could consume (indicates an intent to sell)
- Having equipment that proves you had a plan to sell or distribute
- Previous drug convictions
- Sale or delivery of drugs to a minor
- Manufacturing methamphetamine in the presence of a minor or where the minor lives and exposing them to meth, its ingredients, or its byproducts
- Manufacturing meth in a building with multiple homes, such as an apartment building or condominium
Penalties for Aggravated Drug Possession
The penalty for an aggravated drug charge will depend on the circumstances above and the schedule of the drug involved. There are five schedules of drugs, and each schedule is based on how addictive the substance is. Schedule I and II drugs have a high potential for abuse and could have more severe charges if they are found in your possession without a prescription.
If you have been charged with possession of Schedule I through Schedule III, you will have to spend up to a year in jail, but it could be longer if you have methamphetamine, PCP, or other Schedule I drugs.
If you are charged with selling or planning to sell Schedule I or Schedule II drugs, you could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. If you had a weapon at the time of arrest or if you were near a school, the charges could be even more severe.
What to Do if You Have Been Charged
If you have been accused of aggravated drug possession, the consequences of a conviction are going to be far greater than that of a simple drug possession charge. For this reason, it is crucial that you immediately hire a criminal defense attorney to help you protect your future and challenge the allegations against you.
Do not resist arrest or refuse chemical blood alcohol testing. This could result in additional criminal charges and penalties due to a violation of Pennsylvania implied consent laws. You should also exercise your right to remain silent and never say anything to law enforcement or prosecutors unless your attorney is present. This way, you can protect yourself from self-incrimination and avoid having anything you say be used against you at trial.
When you meet with your drug crimes attorney, you can go over the details of your arrest and determine whether law enforcement had probable cause to stop your vehicle or the right to commit a search and seizure. We will be carefully scrutinizing the circumstances surrounding your arrest and stop to determine which defenses are most likely to result in a drug charge acquittal or other favorable outcome.
How to Challenge Aggravated Drug Possession Charges
If you are not eligible for a pretrial diversion program, which would allow you to avoid incarceration and a conviction, you must prepare a powerful defense strategy. There are several potential defenses that could be used to challenge drug possession charges, such as:
- Police conducting a search without a warrant or probable cause
- Unlawfully obtained evidence that should be tossed out
- The defendant is a victim of entrapment
- The defendant is not in actual or constructive possession of drugs
- The defender did not have knowledge of the drugs
These are just a few potential defenses that could be utilized to help you avoid the harsh consequences of a guilty verdict. After reviewing the specific circumstances of your case, your drug crime attorney will determine how to best approach your defense strategy.
Get Help From an Aggressive Drug Crime Lawyer Today
As soon as you have been charged with drug possession, you should hire a defense attorney. This lawyer will examine what happened before and after your arrest and determine if there are any grounds for dismissing the charge (such as if the drugs did not belong to you or the police did not have probable cause to search you or your car).
Our team has experience helping clients fight misdemeanor and felony drug charges. We are ready to take on your case and give you the representation you deserve. Reach out to our legal team to get started. If you have also been arrested for drunk driving, our DUI lawyers of Bucks County, PA, can provide legal counsel. Contact us today!